A bison-sized 4×4 cuts its way across Far West scenery. A vast, desert expanse spreads beyond view. The temperature is touching 40°C; not enough to deter a dozen or so antelopes from nibbling at the tufts of burnt grass. The turns in the road reveal the occasional village peering out of the dust like lunar colonies.
Ah, the empty bag! Every hunter has come back with it, and no hunter looks forward to it! Empty, but usually with a bitter tinge of disappointment and a bitter feel; it can put you in a bad mood, even make you insufferable to friends and family…
But what would hunting be without it? What pleasure would we get from the battue, the night in the hide, or the walk-up, if the possibility of the empty bag never loomed in our mind?
The fear of leaving empty-handed
Every hunter knows this grim paradox. Waiting for the bird, looking for the hare, casting the hounds after the boar, we all hope the quarry will appear in our sights, presenting us with a shot – fairly and squarely, of course!
Yet the possibility of it not happening, of our efforts and stratagems and trusted techniques being fruitless and for nothing, adds piquancy to our excitement.
Learning patience through hunting
It has often been said that hunting provides a master class in patience, and so it does; but it also teaches us to master the possibility of failure, though without ever truly succeeding, thankfully.
For surely the most wonderful and deepest aspect of the hunt is precisely the fact that the lure of the marsh or the woods does not wane, despite, or perhaps because of, the times we come back empty-handed. In it is a touch of sublimated instinct that brings us truly to life and, in some way, keeps us from apathy.
I have never understood that hunters can be blasé, personally: for me, it’s a complete contradiction in terms, and maybe returning from the hunt empty-handed serves to protect us from a state of mind that by its nature shuts out wonderful excitement. Especially as we always do “see” something out on the hunt: we just have to open our eyes and ears…
An example, to illustrate
Picture the scene – which won’t be difficult as many of our readers have been in similar situations. I’m standing at the foot of an enormous oak tree, bang in the middle of a forest. Most of the leaves have fallen; a tenacious, cloaking mist hangs all around; I know that the easterly wind of the last few days has brought in a fair number of wood pigeons. All bodes well for the “on-the-branch” shooting I’m hoping for, wrapped snugly in my hunting jacket, gloves on hands and balaclava pulled tight…
The first few minutes see birds speeding over the treetops, followed by others, then more still. I’m sure that some among them end up roosting within range of my shotgun.
The minutes go by and turn into an hour, two hours; night is looming and I still haven’t shouldered once; my chances are fading, but I still believe. Around me I can hear whistling and flapping wings; I catch a glimpse of a shadow of these lightly “mocking” birds; some have settled further away, but too far away, and with no way to get nearer… We’ve been there before: who’s the pigeon, now? At the end of the day, Lady Luck didn’t smile on me; time to take down the lofting poles and go home.
A stronger state of mind
Disappointing, yes, because I believed. It all looked so promising… But the conundrum, the great conundrum, is that tomorrow and the day after that, a year and ten years from now, despite everything, I’ll still believe. And the day I do come away with a fine bag, maybe on a day when the conditions are conspiring against me, I’ll remember the times I left without a harvest, the countless empty bags, the fruitless waits and frustrated efforts that make the successes so meaningful.
This modest example of a fruitless pigeon hunt can be applied to every hunting discipline, of course. It merely shows that the heart of the hunt is hope permanently fed by desire. So, hurray for the empty bag!
The Loch Ness monster: do you know the legend from the Highlands about the monster they call Nessie? No, it’s not about a marine animal with a long tail, but the first deer I stalked with such pride.
After my Swedish hunt and the Italian Wild Boar hunt it was time to test the Maral in a more refined long range hunting. With Browning we decided to head to Spain for a Red Deed hunt.
Over a year ago Browning gave my Team and me the trust to organize 5 European Hunts. We selected together different types of hunts in Europe. Today I am here to talk to you about Sweden and its beautiful hunting areas.
Often out hunting the action either kicks off almost right away or when you are just thinking of going home; this tale really explains it. I was out with my daughter Chloe in October for some Roebuck and an evening’s lamping on rabbits. We were in a big high seat called the scaffold that takes two shooters. We set in at 15.00 and waited, and waited, by 17.00 I got the feeling nothing would happen so decided to sack it at 17.30.
In late last November was Wild Boar season in Italy and it was time for me to fly to Tuscany, a region in central Italy with an area of about 23.000 square kilometers of beauty. Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history and artistic legacy. Having a strong linguistic and cultural identity, it is sometimes considered as “a nation within a nation”.
August is most definitely my favourite month in the deer stalking calendar (yes, I am very much counting down the days!), and while I have stalked all the UK deer species with the exception of Sika, the ultimate sporting quarry, for me, just has to be Roe. With the long daylight hours, warm sunny weather and the smell of harvest, the roebuck rut in early August can be one of the most adrenaline-fuelled times of any stalkers year.